In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.
London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.
But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published: September 1st 2015 by NAL/Penguin
Four stars: An interesting Victorian mystery with two smart, sophisticated and engaging characters.
Veronica Speedwell heads back to lock up her departed aunt's cottage. Her bags are packed and she is ready for another adventure, despite the recent offer of marriage to a widower with six kids. Veronica is not one for settling down. She is a scientist and an avid butterfly collector. When she arrives at the cottage, she finds it ransacked and the intruder is still there. Veronica gives chase, but the perpetrator eludes her. A friendly stranger offers her aid, and he tells her that she is in danger. For whatever reason, Veronica trusts the man and accompanies him to London, where he leaves her with an eccentric man named Stoker. Before the Baron can return, he is murdered, taking his secrets with him. Now it is up to Veronica and Stoker to track down the truth. Will Veronica and Stoker survive?
What I Liked:
- I am not always the biggest fan of books set in the Victorian era. I think mostly because the heroines tend to be too ladylike and uptight for my taste. Thankfully, Veronica is a severe departure from the proper Victorian lady. I enjoyed the characters, the mystery and the funny banter in this one. This is not your typical Victorian read. It is sophisticated and fun.
- What drives this book are the terrific characters. Veronica is not a proper, refined lady. Instead she is intelligent, dedicated to science and she makes no apologies for her sexual appetite. She sleeps with men often and enjoys sex, and she is not afraid to discuss her sexual prowess. When was the last time you found a Victorian heroine like Veronica? Stoker compliments Veronica perfectly. He is an eccentric historian with a colorful past. He is also a scientist, and I loved the way he and Veronica matched wits. I thought the two of them were fantastic together.
- The mystery is interesting and it kept me guessing throughout. I honestly had no idea where it was going, and when it finally got to the reveal, it was a bit of a shocker. There are plenty of twists and developments that you won't see coming.
- I was expecting a romance going in, and I must admit I was on the edge of my seat throughout waiting for something to happen, but alas, the romance does not happen in this book. Normally, I would be disappointed, but I am not because I thought the author laid a wonderful foundation for a romance. There is so much chemistry and sexual tension, and I found it delightful the way the two danced around one another. One of the highlights for me was when Veronica plainly asks Stoker what he does to relieve his sexual drive. It was too funny. Right now the relationship stands firmly in the friendship camp, but there is so much potential and hidden desire. I can't wait for it to explode.
- The ending brings all the main story lines to a satisfactory close. There isn't a cliffhanger or big nagging questions, though there are some new and interesting story lines to follow up on as well as the details of Stoker's past, which I am more than anxious to uncover. Still I appreciated that everything drew to a neat conclusion.
And The Not So Much:
- This may have been a case of me and not the book, but I had a hard time engaging into the story. It took awhile for me to completely immerse in the tale. I found the pacing at the beginning a bit slow, and quite honestly, not a lot happens until the book hits the midway point. Once Stoker and Veronica join the traveling circus, the pace picks up. I felt this one required some patience, but the pay off was worth it.
- I loved Stoker. He is not your average, handsome, swoon worthy male lead. He is complicated, scarred and even a bit ornery, and I think that made me love him all the more. However, the author kept throwing out interesting tidbits regarding his character and his past,but most were never explored further, so I, like Veronica, at the end of the tale was wanting to know way more about this enigmatic man. I guess I will have to wait until book two.
- Even though I liked the mystery, I felt that the big reveal was a bit lackluster. I don't know, I was hoping for something more exciting, and even paranormal, but even though it was a shocker, it was nothing that completely wowed me. I also felt that the mystery wasn't suspenseful. I don't know, perhaps it was just me again. Still it was an interesting mystery even if it lacked suspense.
- The non romance drove me a bit crazy. I kept waiting and waiting for that moment, and I was sorely disappointed when it never happened! Even though I loved the way the author developed the relationship, I was left wanting more!
A Curious Beginning is a strong, character driven Victorian tale with mystery, and two unforgettable main characters. This one took a bit of patience in the beginning, but once the book takes off, I was invested in the characters as well as the story. If you want a Victorian mystery with a feisty and intelligent heroine and an enigmatic, sexy, brooding hero, give this one a go. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.